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Law Firm SEO: What Are the Most Important SEO Ranking Factors?
Posted on:
August 22, 2022

A ranking factor is an element of a website design that many people are unaware of. In most cases, when a lawyer sets up their online presence, they don't really consider search engines in their configuration. This could be a gross oversight leading to a decrease in traffic and visibility across the wider web. For a business to increase its visibility on search engines, it must first understand how search engines see searches. Legal professionals especially need to have a firm grasp of how search engines like Google ranks their websites so they can be better prepared to find potential clients.

Ranking With Google

While each search engine has their own ranking criteria, Google is one of the most-used search engines on the internet today. Experts estimate that Google processes the order of 63,000 searches every second. Because of the sheer volume of searches and the potential for getting client eyes on your website, Google should be your number one focus for landing search results. Some experts that study's Google's ranking criteria note that they use over 400 metrics to rank a webpage. It's simply impossible to cover all of those metrics, making it impossible to "cheat" on your SEO. The newest iterations of Google's search algorithm have also focused more squarely on local search and intent-based searches (more on this later).

One of the most important lessons for a legal professional to learn regarding SEO optimization is that it takes time and attention to detail to do right. There's no single quick fix that creates the optimal SEO ranking for your web page. Rather, it takes a series of incremental changes and fixes to set up a website for SEO glory. Unfortunately, Google is opaque about what it expects for its SEO ranking to work (for the same reason to avoid individuals and companies trying to "game" their algorithm). Unfortunately, that means that we need to find search engine consultants that understand how this works to tap into their expertise and make a website that ranks highly.

One of the most critical updates Google has made and continues to tweak with each update cycle is the idea of search intent. The question Google wants to answer is what the user is looking for. Unfortunately, users don't always put the most clear search terms, meaning that Google needs to figure out the most efficient way to use those terms along with what it expects the user wants to find. Intent-based search focuses on the user's ideal results. The lawyer's website, therefore, needs to take this into account when it's working on its ranking criteria. Among the factors considered by Google for a professional website include user analytics, internal links, external links, high-quality content, and even how responsive the site is to different screen sizes.

Local Audiences and Search Results

Legal firms from around the country know that the most viable options for potential clients they will have will come from their local area. National law firms usually boil down their targeting to certain areas and fields to get the best results for searches. Local citations can make a lot of difference to whether Google shows your website as a result of a search. But what are local citations? Usually, if another website mentions any of these in association with your firm, they count as local citations:

  • Website
  • Phone Number
  • Address
  • Firm Name

This function gives you power over your search result showing but allowing you to reach out to local publications. Organic search results like these can be useful in driving traffic to your website. What's more, if you're on good terms with some local professional organizations, you can develop some content for them and let it link back to you. Guest posting and showing up in local news reports (both good and bad) can do wonders for your overall search engine rankings.

Local citations can make a lot of difference to how a person searching for a lawyer in your region finds your website. Your local citations aren't limited to Google mentions either. You will also need to manage your business profile on Facebook, Twitter, Yelp, LinkedIn and YouTube. These local citations allow Google to develop a picture of your business and how others in the region see it. The amount of citations your website has, combined with the amount of accurate data, and what other websites link or reference yours. Consistently accurate data is vital, since inaccurate or erroneous data erodes Google's trust in your website.

It's up to you to clean up your citations and ensure that they point to the right places. If your citations lead to dead links or to low-authority sites, it affects how Google sees your website ranking. Again this stems from Google's intent-based search system. The intent is to make life as easy for the searcher, and that means the onus is on the company to ensure their links are conducive to organic search.

Local Ranking Factors for Google Results

A local ranking factor can be anything that Google relies on to get a picture of what your business does and who you are. These ranking factors can be numerous, but we're focusing on the few that are most impactful and easiest to deal with for a legal professional.

Relevance

The relevance ranking factor refers to how well a particular local listing fits the search criteria that someone is looking for. Google My Business for example can help to leverage relevance by providing a list of services and locations that the office has. Your Google My Business page should reflect the content you have on your website. The entry or description should also be optimized for primary keywords. Geo-identities including neighborhoods and addresses should also be entered to allow individuals to find your business from a simple search. You should also ensure that your business falls into the right category and that you cross-link content such as web pages and links. Search engine optimization is crucial to get Google My Business to work for you.

Your geo-relevance relates to the preferred zip codes that your business will focus on first. These are usually within walking or short driving distance from your business location. It is also determined by the longitude and latitude of the business's physical address. Primary keywords also help to drive SEO by showing up in titles and meta descriptions.

Proximity

When someone performs a search, potential clients will want to go to ta relevant lawyer for their needs. Proximity doesn't refer to a law firm's physical presence, but rather it looks at the search query and where that query is located within the given result. Google's algorithm can use location services on a PC or a mobile device to determine whether a person is close to a location geographically as well. However, location proximity is secondary to usefulness proximity to the search terms. If Google decides that a business further away has a more relevant result for the user, they'll direct them to that business instead. Google My Business may also play a part since the algorithm uses that latitude and longitude fix to determine the location of the business in the real world and calculate proximity to it.

Prominence

If your firm has a great reputation among clients and peers, it has a large volume of prominence. Prominence rankings are also based on what Google garners about the website from other sources across the internet. These may include positive reviews, inbound links from other sources, and even the inclusion of broken links or nofollow links. These can have a positive or negative impact on how Google sees your website in the grander scheme of things.

Social media can be a priceless tool to increase your prominence. Building more brand accounts on social media and expanding to new channels can give you more prominence, but only if you can manage those social media tools well. Citations and directory listings can also impact a business's prominence and the more of them they are, the better ranked the business becomes. It's important to know that these inbound links should be from domain authority sources. Low-quality backlinks can damage a business's ranking if Google penalizes them for "buying" backlinks. Finally, more brand references can help to create better prominence for a company. These include news posts, mentions in magazines and other media, including sites like Wikipedia.

On-Page SEO Ranking Factors

The previously mentioned factors refer to the business as a whole, but there are a whole slew of other factors that need to be considered when looking at an SEO strategy. An SEO campaign would do well to incorporate these ranking factors into their Google search strategy.

Content

Way back in 1996, Bill Gates stated that "Content is King." He's not wrong, as most of a website's Google search strategies are planned around content production and sharing. Quality content is where most businesses get stuck on for their SEO factors. Content marketing is the process of using content to drive traffic to a website. It focuses on creating quality content that users can get into, share, and spread through email and social media. Content should include target keywords that focus on what the business does and how it can help a client.

To find the proper keywords for a particular topic, a firm must expend some time into keyword research. This can be rudimentary, like looking at what is most popular on social media recently and developing content around that. However, more in-depth keyword research may be necessary in other areas. For example, during the holiday season, some keywords rank better than others. Legal firms can craft their content during these months to capitalize on those keywords.

For content marketing, your content should be between 500 and 1,000 words in length, although longer form content is viable in some contexts. Some legal firms specialize in long-form content since it has much higher user engagement. As an SEO factor, user engagement can help a business spread its content to other areas. When a user is engaged, they feel as though the content connects to them directly. As such, user engagement factors can significantly increase outreach for a company and is one of those crucial SEO factors that a business should spend time considering. Duplicate content is an invitation to disaster for law firms. Google penalizes duplicate content harshly, so it's always good to ensure that the post you're developing hasn't been put anywhere else on the internet.

Page Tags

One of the page-level factors that should never be overlooked is the use of tags. The title tag, for example, defines the title of the content for Google, which allows it to then rank the page based on its relevance. Titles can be a great source of organic traffic through SERP redirection. Other tags that matter for organic traffic include the page's meta description and its heading tags. Ideally, your page should only have one H1 tag for the title, with the rest being H2 tags and H3 tags depending on their relevance.

A personal injury lawyer that wants to have a decent search rank for a keyword needs to ensure that their headings and titles are properly arranged. Since intent is what Google focuses on, it measures the success of a website for a particular keyword via a metric known as click-through rate or CTR. A website's CTR is determined by checking how many times searchers clicked on the website by the amount of times Google presented the site to them.

Universal Resource Locator (URL)

A URL is the page address that a particular piece of content is located at. URLs are crucial to link building since it refers to where the business's online presence is. The URL should also have target keywords to direct searchers to the content that appeals to their interests. The URL spells out the hierarchy of the website. Some pages are only available as subdomains from the main hosting location. Google search bots would catalogue the site based on this structure. In some websites, a domain structure chart can help to determine where a page or bit of content falls in the grander scheme of the website's interface.

Internal Linking

Legal content without a link back to the main website doesn't do much to direct traffic to the main page. An SEO agency typically ensures that all content done for a business has internal links to help bring users back to the contact or landing pages. The conversion rate of clients increases once there are internal links that help to push traffic to the relevant pages.

Internal links can also help determine importance within the webpage's hierarchy. If a page has a lot of internal links in it, Google sees this page as one of the more essential pages for the website. As a result, this page has higher search ranking in direct searches from Google. Prospective clients can quickly and easily find the relevant information to contact an accident lawyer, for example, once the site is arranged properly and has the correct linked data.

Technical SEO For Law Firms

Technical SEO for law firms include issues like server-side optimization and coding. Integration of Google My Business links to help the business presence online can also be included in technical SEO strategy. A responsive mobile strategy is important for user experience, which can also impact how Google sees a particular website.Mobile users make up one of the largest demographics of users on the internet today and a company's professional website ought to cater to them. Developing responsive design can draw mobile users back to the site and ensure they choose your legal firm over others.

User intent can be gauged based on certain metrics such as bounce rate, which allow the company to determine whether its content is really attractive its target audience. Legal content should have the proper research for keywords so they can direct users to the correct parts of the website. A vast majority of users would prefer not having to deal with sifting through a website to find the exact content they're looking for.

Outbound links is another essential part of technical SEO for law firms. Low-quality outbound links can lead to severe penalties for the company. Google dislikes low-quality links, so buying links to fit into your website might not end well. Page load times can also factor into the overall user experience for a website. No user wants to wait hours to get their page loaded, and so putting time and effort into optimizing this load time can have a significant positive effect on the business's potential clientele.

Other Technical Aspects to Consider

Among the other, less mentioned, but no less important aspects to keep an eye on for Technical SEO for law firms include:

  • JavaScript (JS): Some websites, especially those built on non-Wordpress back ends, utilize JavaScript for widgets. Ensuring that these scripts don't have errors and are appropriately updated to conform with security protocols is in the best interest of a company's SEO strategy.
  • Structured Data and Features Snippets: A vast majority of modern websites know that competition depends on whether their content is seen before others. Google rewards companies that have featured snippet options for their searches. These featured snippet usually contains details about a particular subject that can be displayed in its own search bar encapsulated on Google's page. Structured data makes information on a website more searchable by encapsulating that data into databases.
  • Broken Links and Redirects: When a webpage isn't found, you might get a 404 error from the server. Many websites allow users to customize their 404 error pages which can be useful in redirecting a user back to the main website. Another redirection strategy useful in SEO for law firms is 301 redirects. When a user requests certain information and the server redirects them to another webpage, a 301 redirect function ensures the SEO links aren't broken.
  • Duplicates and Canonicals: One of the biggest problems for webpages that may want to share their content to other places is that penalty that Google hits them when they have duplicate content. The canonical tag helps to reduce the incidence of penalties by letting the search engine know which one is the real, original content and which one can be ignored. Google will always prefer to send users to the original content over the duplicate one.

Off-Page Ranking Factors

After we've looked at all the page-level factors that impact a legal firm's SEO, we need to also consider the off-page content that can have just as significant an impact. These off-page factors include:

  • Reputation:  One of the things Google enjoys is sending users to an authority on the subject. However, one doesn't need a particular qualification to be an expert on a topic. They just need to have a good reputation with others within the community. Google uses a ranking system known as E-A-T (Expertise, Authority and Trust) to rank whether a site should be considered an expert on a topic. Lawyers can benefit from E-A-T ratings by increasing their authority, and posting expert opinions on matters that can be linked to by others to build authority.
  • Social Media Integration: Most legal firms include social media integration in their websites because it's a great way to build authority and backlinks. Additionally, with well-established social media pages, a business can potentially cross-share its blog posts and drive more traffic to its website because of it. Social media is also searchable, so these posts can also be developed into an in-depth social media strategy.
  • Backlinking: Probably one of the most important ranking factors for a business's SEO strategy is backlinking. Backlinks can be divided up into natural, manual, and self-created links. Natural links happen without your personal intervention. For example, when someone creates a link to a piece of content you created without your direct input, that's a natural link. Manual link-building can come from sources such as guest postings from blogs or news coverage from local media. Self-created links might be connected to press releases, online directories, or press releases. Self-created links are usually frowned on by Google, and a company should seek to avoid them if possible.

Developing a Winning SEO strategy

Just like virality, it can be difficult to pin down what makes for a good SEO strategy. There are so many uncertain factors that trial and error is usually the only way you can get truly stunning results. Constant revisiting of a digital marketing campaign can help a business better adapt its SEO strategies going forward.


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